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Home / Nutrition Advice / Behavioural Advice / Safety Advice

 

Dogs and Children

 

by CHRISTINE EMERSON, dog behaviourist at Drove Veterinary Hospital

 

JUST like the thousands of would-be football managers on the terraces every Saturday, there is suddenly a wealth of wannabe dog behaviourists giving their opinion on dogs and children.

It is possible to get a good balance between energetic children and an enthusiastic dog - children can be better at training dogs than some adults. Dogs and children are most certainly mutually compatible. Dog attacks occur on a daily basis but only large dogs make the headlines because they can do the most damage. I have helped thousands of aggressive dogs and, of those, the most life-threatening attack on a child was by a Westie.

Don’t suddenly demonise Westies, though. They can be wonderful pets, just like rottweillers. In 18 years I have never been asked to help with an aggressive rottweiller. They are one of the most gentle, fun-loving breeds I have known.

It would be good to retain the pleasure of dogs and children mingling in public areas together and it is no more acceptable for a dog to rush over to a child as it is for the child to rush over to a dog - a frightening experience for both. Children and dogs should be educated to live together happily.

So, what is the answer? Both should be exposed to the experience of each other when they are young, so fears do not develop. Most dog bites to children stem from fear.Parents and owners should be careful not to pass their dislikes onto their dog or child. Teaching tolerance and manners should be a high priority for both and just as you can recognise when a child is uncomfortable with a dog, recognise the early signs of a dog uncomfortable with a child.

Separation in public places is not the answer but training and education for both species is.